Stephen lectures in the History and Philosophy of Science Programme at The University of Melbourne and is a Canon of St Paul’s Cathedral Melbourne
Description: My starting point is the common view: nature has produced human beings. Accordingly, I seek an account of nature that is up to underwriting an account of human beings, which must include how human inquirers have come into existence. The explanations of phenomena by the natural sciences have been effective in a vast array of contexts. Many conclude it is reasonable to expect that this will also hold for human inquiry, including human rationality on display in many different ‘scenes of inquiry’. An Australian philosopher was an early proponent of this view, the late, great, J. Smart, e.g., ‘Sensations and Brain Processes’, Philosophical Review, 68, (1959), p.141–156. In my view, however, human inquiry has features that resist being explained in completely naturalistic terms. These features of inquiry are: (i) normativity (evaluative and regulative); (ii) the logical space of explanations in terms of reasons is logically different from the logical space of explanation in terms of subsumption under natural law. On (i): the ‘evaluative’ dimension says what counts as a good argument or good experiments and the ‘regulative’ says inquirers ought to take account of the good arguments and experiments relevant to their inquiry. Naturalistic explanations logically cannot provide grounds for this epistemic ought. On (ii): however sophisticated, the causal explanation of human evolution in terms of natural laws logically cannot lead to a story about the human capacity to grasp rational inference. If my view is correct, then in the light of my starting point, a richer account of nature is needed that includes but goes beyond the natural sciences. In this paper I will report the results of testing my view in the light of From Bacteria to Bach and Back, The Evolution of Minds (Allan Lane, 2017), by Daniel Dennett.